It’s their third café, in an old hat factory once filled with bales of wool, plus the owners like to think of themselves as black sheep. So the name Three Bags Full was a perfect fit.
The owners are members of the team that created APTE in Alphington and Liar Liar in Hawthorn, Nathan Toleman, Sarah Foletta and Diamond Rozakeas. They’ve added Ben Clark to the mix. Toleman and Rozakeas have strong backgrounds in hotel management and hospitality, Clark is passionate about coffee and chef Foletta’s menu creation is magic.
Toleman also adds a slick eye for architectural design and junkyard scavenging. The street signs that became stools, the bowling lane that became a four-metre table trimmed with timber from 1950s basketball courts, the reclaimed blackbutt that frames the counter area and the eclectic mix of quirky light fittings are his work.
The café, in the lovely old Denton Mills hat factory, is still in its infancy, but already locals must be wishing it had remained a secret. At two bags full, mid-week, mid-morning, the noise levels are at the upper edge of conversation comfortable. The espresso machine is pumping out coffees, food is arriving fast and the staff is in top gear. It’s hard to imagine what the din is like at three bags full.
The cheerful yellow food menu is one of those lists that make decisions difficult. The all-day breakfast options feature parmesan eggs served on organic sourdough, house-cured salmon, house-made baked beans, ricotta hotcakes, sticky black gingerbread, oven-roasted field mushrooms, a house-made granola trifle and fruit salad served with rosewater labna and a green tea cardamom syrup. That’s at least six visits’ worth.
Lunches include mixed salad plates, an open lamb sandwich, a sardine provencale and an array of pides and toasted sourdough sandwiches. There’s espresso coffee, filter coffee and Clover filter coffee on offer and a sexy-looking array of cakes at the counter.
Specials boards offer items such as potato and leek soup, ham-hock beans with fontina cheese, baked ricotta with prosciutto roasted tomatoes on sourdough, and banana and coconut bread.
Daily salads are excellent and include creative offerings such as cous-cous spinach and roasted vegies; carrot, almond and mint in a pomegranate dressing; and green beans and brussels sprouts with cauliflower and feta. If it’s a salady sort of day and you can’t decide, opt for a mix.
Serving sizes are generous, but they would have to be at a café named Three Bags Full.
In just a few months, this chic café has attracted much attention and is reeling in admirers. The food is imaginative and generous. The gleaming Synesso machine and the proud coffee menu show promise. The staff is attentive and pleasant. It’s in good hands and should only get better.
Three Bags Full, corner Nicholson and Mollison streets, Abbotsford
Phone \ 9421 2732
Chefs \ Carolyn Bell, Chris Griffiths
Prices \ Coffee $3.50; breakfasts $6-$16.50; lunches $11.50-$15; cakes $3-$6
Open \ Monday-Friday 7am-4pm; Saturday-Sunday 8am-4pm
Three Bags Full puts another notch in the belt of Melbourne’s top-class warehouse-style café fit-outs. Witty touches such as the street signs topping sturdy metal stools and the pre-loved collection of battered light fittings are brought to charming warmth by the recycled blackbutt surrounding the front counter and the glossy communal table, made from the timber of an old bowling lane. The whitewashed brick walls are cool and inviting. Sweet touches such as window boxes containing tiny herb gardens and colourful inverted cup-and-saucer lights complete the seduction. There’s a spot for a serious business meeting, round tables for groups, tiny tables for duos and singles, window seats and cheery outdoor seating, just right for late autumn sun-soaking.